Football: Newell becomes focal point of Blackburn's industry

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Blackburn Rovers. 1

Manchester City. .0

'I'D LIKE us to be able to play better than this,' Rovers' manager, Kenny Dalglish, admitted. But for the moment he seemed happy enough with another home victory, another three points. Nevertheless Blackburn won this tight contest by outbattling their visitors as much as by outplaying them. Style took second place to efficiency: there was no place in the side for Gordon Cowans, and Roy Wegerle stayed on the bench.

With City's Keith Curle, the most expensive defender in the country, marking Rovers' Alan Shearer, the most expensive forward in the land, it was billed as a battle of the big spenders. In the event, however, the equity of that particular duel meant that the focus of Blackburn's attacks shifted from Shearer to his partner, Mike Newell.

Newell, who combines impressive close control with his speed and height, gave City's Dutch defender Michel Vonk a gruelling afternoon. On the quarter-hour it was Newell who set up Mark Atkins only to see the shot deflected wide. From the resulting corner Newell then headed the ball against Mike Sheron on the City goal-line.

The Blackburn forward's next contribution was to dribble the ball round the floundering Vonk and lay a tempting centre across to Stuart Ripley, who half-volleyed it well but wide.

In the 25th minute Vonk, by now only too aware of the threat Newell posed, bundled him over on the edge of the box. Tim Sherwood bent the free-kick round the wall and Coton, unsighted until the last moment, had to scramble across to prevent the ball stealing inside his left-hand post.

It was not until after these alarms that City managed to mount a coherent attack of their own. It arrived with copybook simplicity just after the half-hour: Rick Holden raced clear down the left flank, reached the byline, and sent over a high cross which Niall Quinn met with a downward header. The ball was well directed but lacked real pace and Mimms was able to gather it.

After the restart City drove forward with energy. Holden headed David White's cross just wide of the post, McMahon sent a long- range effort over the crossbar, and Quinn - anxious to redeem himself after being sent off in midweek against Middlesbrough - dived gamely at Holden's cross- cum-shot but failed to connect.

Perhaps City had used up their small allocation of good fortune when the referee failed to spot Vonk holding back Newell as they raced together for a long clearance. It was composure, however, rather than luck that White needed in the 68th minute when he broke into the box and, with the goal in his sights, shot tamely straight at Mimms.

This lacklustre finish was swiftly punished. The ball was cleared immediately upfield, Shearer held off Curle's challenge before touching a centre across to Newell who, despite an awkward high bounce, volleyed it past Coton. It was a rare moment of decisive skill in a disjointed game dominated by solid defending.

Predictably City surged forward after the goal. Indeed they almost equalised from the restart but Andy Hill saw his ferocious rocket from outside the box tipped on to the woodwork by Mimms.

Chris Price came on for Alan Wright to add his bite to the midfield and Rovers' defence, well marshalled by Moran and Hendry, held out under City's bombardment. In the event it was Blackburn who nearly stole another goal, when Ripley burst through the middle and, holding off Vonk, saw his shot pinball off the post, along the line, and away for a goal-kick.

Blackburn Rovers: B Mimms; D May, A Wright (C Price, 71 min), T Sherwood, C Hendry, K Moran, S Ripley, M Atkins, A Shearer, M Newell, T Dobson. Subs not used: R Wegerle, M Dickins (gk). Manager: K Dalglish.

Manchester City: T Coton; A Hill, I Brightwell, F Simpson, K Curle, M Vonk, D White, M Sheron, N Quinn, R Holden, S McMahon. Subs not used: P Reid, G Flitcroft, M Margetson (gk). Manager: P Reid.

Referee: R Hart (Darlington).

Goal: Newell (1-0, 69 min).